War of 1812 political cartoon celebrating American victories on the Lakes

[William] Charles del et Sculp / Pubd. and sold Wholesale by Wm Charles, JOHN BULL making a new BATCH of SHIPS to send to the LAKES. Philadelphia, [Oct. 21, 1814.]
Etching and aquatint on laid paper, 9 ½”h x 12 ½”w plus margins, uncolored

A terrific and rather rare political cartoon mocking the British for Perry’s famous victory on Lake Erie in September 1813 and Macdonough’s triumph in Plattsburg Bay on Lake Champlain the following year. In a region of few roads, these victories ensured American control of its northern frontiers at the end of the War of 1812.

The image centers on George III, wearing his crown, the Order of the Garter and an apron, as he slides a batch of frigates into a “Patent Oven for Bakeing [sic] Ships.” He explains the urgency thus: “Ay! What_What_What! Brother Jonathan taken another whole fleet on the Lakes._Must work away work away & send some more or He’ll have Canada next_” The Baker King is surrounded by assistants, one of whom appears to be a French Canadian working at a “French Dough Trough:” “Begar Mounseer Bull me no like dis new Alliance_ Dere be one Yankey Man da call MacDo-enough Take your Ships by de whole Fleet_ You better try get him for I never get Do-enough made at dis rate!!!”

William Charles (1776-1820)
The satire features the boldly-etching lines and strongly-modeled figures characteristic of William Charles. Charles was a publisher and engraver active in New York and Philadelphia in the first two decades of the 19th century. Born in Scotland, trained in England, and active early in his career in both Edinburgh and London, he probably arrived in New York in or after 1806.

Charles was involved in publishing works of adult fiction and children’s books, at least some of which included his own engravings, but he is best known for his series of caricatures, most of which addressed events during the War of 1812. Stauffer lists over 15 such images, a few such as “Johnny Bull and the Alexandrians” and “The Hartford Convention” lampooning American sectional differences or military incompetence, but most tweaking Great Britain for defeats at American hands. According to Murell, Charles and his partner at one time planned to issue these monthly in sets of four, but abandoned the project due to lack of subscribers. For all that, Murell asserts that Charles’ political cartoons “arouse[d] more public interest than any produced in America before.”

American Antiquarian Society, American Engravings, #2515. Murrell, American Graphic Humor, vol. 1 p. 88 (pl. 78). Olds, Bits and Pieces, #431. Stauffer, American Engravers, #315. OCLC gives impressions only at the American Antiquarian Society, Clements Library, Library of Congress and the Peabody Essex Museum. Biographical information taken primarily from Murell, American Graphic Humor, vol. 1 pp. 79-95.


Small stain in upper-right margin, else excellent